Mar 11, 2009

Query- Angel Undercover

A revision of this query has been posted, click here to read it.

Dear Mr./Ms. Agentperson

Paige Moss was an angel undercover long before she knew it. Her friend Dak (a real angel in disguise) told her she’s always had the heart and maybe she just needed the right situation for her courage to show.

After she is whisked far from home, fourteen-year-old Paige decides to escape her shyness by pretending to be like her hero, Everest. She maintains the fa├žade to investigate when her beloved older sister is accused of endangering thousands of lives through an underhanded plot. Keeping up the boldness ruse, Paige exposes the real villain – a visionary with good aims and all the wrong means – and a whole new set of problems spring forth. But her pretending turns into something very real because, while she feels unconfident and fearful inside, others only see a brave and caring young woman. Paige learns that shyness is not a state of existence, but a choice; that her true character is really the sum of her actions. By the end of her myth-and-magic-filled adventures, Paige is organizing a militant force to save her fractured home city from rogues – a far cry from the girl who couldn’t even give a class presentation.

Paige always dreamed of making a difference, but never thought she could… until she did and became the unexpected hero. The angel undercover.

Angel Undercover is a YA fantasy and is complete at 95,000 words. It is the first in a planned quartet.

Kind Regards,


Rick Daley said...

It seems like there are two elements to the story: the personal journey and self-discovery, and the quest to redeem her sister. From the query, I can't tell which is the primary element driving the plot. Either of them could make this a compelling read, but to make the query succinct, I think you should focus on one as primary.

There are a couple of characters that raise questions for me...You introduce Dak and specify that he is a real ange, which makes me wonder if Paige is an angel in a figurative sense or is she literally an angel? Also, where does Dak play into the story, he isn't mentioned again in the query.

You mention her hero Everest, but provide no details. Is Everest another angel, or a character from TV/movie/book?

In the second paragraph, you tease us with a few details, but you need to be more concise. What is the underhanded plot? What new problems spring forth?

I'm not clear on your description of the villain. A person who wants to do good, but has no resources (i.e. the wrong means), so in an act of improvisation and with no regard for the consequences of his/her actions, does something that affects Paige's sister.

You end the description of the story as a cliffhanger...she "is organizing a militant force to save her fractured home city" implies that she has not yet saved the city. I'm guessing that's driving the plot in book 2, if not books 2, 3, and 4?

Elana Johnson said...


Here are my thoughts.

Hmm…there’s no hook. I need a strong hook sentence to grab my attention and propel me through the rest of the query. I don’t think your first paragraph is it. In fact, it leaves me a bit confused as to whether or not Paige knows she’s an angel. I thought she didn’t, but then you’ve got Dak encouraging her, so…I’m not sure.

Why is she whisked far from home? And where does she go? Who is Everest? You throw out the name, and then…nothing. Is she the beloved older sister? Doesn’t sound like it, but that’s where my mind went with the name and then the next person you mention is her beloved older sister.

I’d like a hint at what the problems are. I feel like we’re going to be in a different world, but I don’t know what that world is like. The class presentation came out of nowhere. Now if your hook had been something like, “Paige Moss runs from the room in tears because her social studies presentation went down the toilet,” then I might be able to make the connection. As it is, you’ve just TOLD me she’s shy, not shown me with a specific event. I also want to be shown the problems, the new world, and what she does to become the angel undercover. The organizing of the military force is a good example, but I had no idea she was trying to save her city.

scott g.f.bailey said...

Shy, fourteen-year-old Paige Moss is organizing a militant force to save her fractured home city from rogues.

That's a hook. Cut away everything else. You tell us over and over that she's shy. We get it: she's shy! Put the shy girl into danger.

I agree with Rick that the villain is confusing as described. Be concrete: "When X threatens to destroy the world by unleashing his horde of Ys..." or whatever. Be confident and assertive.

About Me said...

"Shy, fourteen-year-old Paige Moss is organizing a militant force to save her fractured home city from rogues."

I agree this sounds like a hook to me. Build the query around that.

We are told that she's pretending to be brave too much. Say it only one is enough.

Anette J Kres said...

*bangs head against the wall*

After 6 version of this query (with tons of plot details) the question of why Paige's story even matters was still unanswered. So I built this around the main point of the story: she grows from a sky girl into a hero. Period.

If "Shy, fourteen-year-old Paige Moss is organizing a militant force to save her fractured home city from rogues." is my hook then I don't know what to do.

That event happens in the last couple chapters of the book - at which point she's not really even shy anymore...

*bangs head some more*

I can't win. This is impossible.

If I have plot, I get told I don't have the point of the story.
If I have the point, I get told I don't have enough plot.
If I had 1000 words to tell you (or the agent) everything you want to know, it could be done. But I have 250.

And I've tried it both ways.

Perhaps the story just sucks.

(And I'm not frustrated with any of you or hurt by your comments at all. My skin is thick and my mind is screaming "this is an impossible task"

The whole point of a query isn't to tell the whole book right? It's just to hook interest... to get the agent to want to read more...

So what can I do to achieve that. Because I can't fit everything everyone wants in 250 words.

Rick Daley said...

First things first:

If you haven't read Lady Glamis blog yet today, her post is quite relevant:

Next: up the ante. Don't tell it in 250 words, tell it in 25. Try to put it in a single sentence first, then expand it.

Next, focus on a hook. We think the "Shy girl steps up to the plate to build an army in order to save her homeland" is effective. It worked for Joan of Arc (until they burned her at the stake).

I know my query needs work, but I think I do have the hook right:
Gil Jacobs must die in order to save his soul.

Similar to your novel, that doesn't happen until the very end. That doesn't matter. It is an evocative hook. It shows something unique about the story: that the hero must die, where in most cases of man vs. death, the hero struggles to live.

Now explaining the setup and execution of this is more involved, but that part of my query is a WIP. Take it a step at a time, and you'll get there. Give up and you won't, guaranteed.

Anette J Kres said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anette J Kres said...

Rick, your second comment here is very helpful. Thank you.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Anette, thank you for your emailed request. I'm going over to type up a response after I post this comment.

Everybody has given you some great direction. I think your main problem is focus. I'm going to try and help you find that. Talk to you over email. And yes, it sounds like you have some Isuckitis going on here. That never helps. *sigh*

Anette J Kres said...

Thanks Glam. You should post that email up here. It's good stuff. :) I'm sure it could help more than just me.

Anette J Kres said...

Heya, I have a revision ready. It can't be any worse than the last right? Not sure whether to put it where you found the original or not, so I'll jsut post it here and you can do with it what you like, k?

This is version 10:

Dear Mr./Ms. Agentperson

A heart of gold and shy as a mouse. That was Paige Moss before the adventure that led to her saving her city and becoming the hero no one, leastwise herself, ever thought she could be. A real angel undercover.

Getting kidnapped turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to Paige Moss. She is brought to an exotic rainforest, where myth and magic exist, where her new friends teach her aerial acrobatics and underwater horse riding. She gets reunited with her older sister, Savannah, who set up the abduction to save Paige from dangerous thieves back home. And best of all, she finds the chance to escape the shyness that has always held her back.

But Savannah is actually working for her kidnapper, Maisen, training an army for his vision to unite the three sister races of the world. While Maisen’s aims are noble, he’ll use any means necessary to accomplish them. So when Paige learns of the covert mission, he drags her through an arsenal of magical tortures before leaving her to die in a sea cave, just so she cannot interfere.

When Paige is rescued, the truth comes out and Maisen flees. Weeks later, an entire city is leveled overnight and Paige is positive he’s involved. She rounds up her friends and allies and returns to her turbulent home city, a shy girl no longer. With her sister at her side, Paige expects one final showdown with the person she fears most, but it turns out that Maisen has become the victim of one of his own plans. The rogue firestorm he sparked is out of control and it’s up to Paige and her team to stop it.

Angel Undercover is a YA fantasy and is complete at 94,000 words. It is the first in a planned quartet.

Kind Regards,

Mira said...


I love that you didn't give up! And your second query is so much better - you are definitely on your way.

I LOVE the first paragraph. I like the first two sentences in the second paragraph. I love the last line of the second paragraph, but I might move that to the end of the summary altogether, since that's the point of the book.

The rest I might suggest you condense into one more paragraph. A pithy one. I know it sounds impossible, but your revision proves to me you can do it.

You can do it!

For better or worse, those are my suggestions.

This sounds like a great book - really fun.

Good luck!